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  CNN    CNN Newsroom    News/Business. New.  

    September 10, 2010
    11:00 - 1:00pm EDT  

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in a midterm election climate. eric irrick son, you are not a fan of this president. if you were in the room and could have one question of the president of united states, what would it be? >> i would ask him about the koran burning to throw him off message. why do this on friday at 11:00? this is to set the nature raive for over the weekend so that journalists on the sunday talk shows are talking about him to keep the momentum from tuesday. we all know the polls are going to contract. it's going to narrow, so we can say the president is having momentum. >> to be fair, he scheduled this earlier in the week. >> that's true but it was pretty obvious when he scheduled it on tuesday that this story was blowing up along with others. on friday at 11:00, he doesn't speak to the people but to the base and us. >> he's trying to drive the
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conversation into the weekend. we are inside the two-minute warning. he is an extraordinary communicator, but as president, people said what happened to the guy who was out on the campaign trail. >> right. it brings it back to something donna said earlier, she says he thinks he has the juice to bring people out. i saw him say do this one tore me, come out like you do for me in 2008. he does the same thing in virginia and republicans won those. this is different. if he can frame it as a big, big election for him and his agenda. it's a tough go. >> you have to define the stakes for his voters to get out and vote. that's something he hasn't done. >> remember, congress returns next week and the other thing the president wants to do is to help set the agenda for the closing weeks of this session of congress. >> youee now the great pageantry in the east room of
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the white house. you see correspondents taking their seats. president of the united states on a friday morning in the east room. good morning. before i take your questions, i just want to talk a little bit about our continuing efforts to dig ourselves out of this recession, and to grow our economy. as i said in cleveland on wednesday, i ran for president because i believed the policies of the previous decade have left our economy weaker and our middle class struggling. there were policies that cut taxes, especially for millionaires and billionaires, and cut regulations for corporations and for special interests and left everyone else pretty much fending for themselves. they were policies that ultimately culminated in a financial crisis, and a terrible recession that we're still digging out of today. we came into office with a different view about how our
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economy should work. instead of tax cuts for millionaires, we believe in cutting tacks for middle-class families and small business owners. we've done that. instead of letting corporations play by their own rules, we believe in making sure that businesses treat workers well and consumers friendly and play by the same rules as everyone else. so, we've put in place common-sense rules that accomplish that. instead of tax breaks that encourage corporations to take jobs overseas, we believe in tax breaks for companies that create jobs right here in the united states of america. we have begun to do that. we believe in investments that will make america more competitive in the global economy, investments in education and clean energy, in research and technology, and we're making those investments. these are the principles that have guided us over the last 19
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months, and these are the principles that form the basis of the additional economic proposals that i offered this week. because even though the economy is growing again, and we've added more than 750,000 private sector jobs this year, the hole the recession left was huge, and progress has been painfully slow. millions of americans are still looking for work. millions of families are struggling to pay their bills or the mortgage. and so these proposals are meant to both accelerate job growth in the short term and strengthen the economy in the long run. these proposals include a more generous permanent extension of the tax credit that goes to companies for all of the research and innovation that they do here in america. and i proposed that all american businesses should be allowed to write off all of the investments they do in 2011. this will help small businesses
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upgrade their plants and equipment and will encourage large corporations to get off the sidelines and start putting their profits to work in our economy. we also announced a six-year plan to rebuild america's roads and railways and runways. already, our investments in infrastructure are putting folks in construction industry back to work. this plan would put thousands more back to work. and it would help us remain competitive with countries in europe and asia that have already invested heavily in projects like high-speed railroads. but one thing we can do next week is end a month-long standoff on a small business jobs bill that's been held up in the senate by a partisan minority. i realize there are plenty of issues in washington where people of good faith simply disagree on principle. this should not and is not one of those issues.
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this is a bill that does two main things. it gives small business owners tax cuts and helps them get loans. it will eliminate capital gains taxes for key investments in 1 million small businesses. it will provide incentives to invest and create jobs for 4 million small businesses and will more than double the amount some small business owners can borrow to grow their companies. it's a bill that's bad for, won't add to the deficits, been written by democrats and republicans. it's a bill that's been praised by the chamber of commerce. and yet a minority of republican senators have been using legislative tactics to prevent the bill from even getting to a vote. now, i was pleased to see that yesterday republican senator george voinovich of ohio said he would refuse to support this blockade any longer. he said this country is really hurting, and we don't have time
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anymore to play games. i could not agree more. i understand there's an election coming up. but the american people didn't send us here to think about our jobs. they sent us here to think about theirs. there are small businesses right now who are putting off plans to hire more workers because this bill is stalled. that's not the kind of leadership this country deserves. and i hope we can now move forward to get small business owners the relief they need to start hiring and growing again. while we're on the subject of economics, i also want to make an announcement about my economic team. this week christina rome earp returned to berkeley after a tireless outstanding tenure as chair of the council of economic advisers. christine is brilliant, dedicated, and she was part of the team that helped save this country from a depression. so we're going to miss her
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dearly, but today i'm happy to announce austan goolsbee as her replacement. he has been one of my good friends and close economic advisers for years. he's one of the finest economists in the country and he's worked as a member of the council of economic advisers since we arrived here in washington. he's not just a brilliant economist. he's someone who has a deep appreciation of how the economy affects everyday people and talks about it in a way that's easily understood. he already knows and works with the rest of the team very well. i have complete confidence he's going to do a outstanding job at cea chair. finally, tomorrow, we will commemorate not only the heart break of september 11th, but also the enduring values and resilient spirit of america. both michelle and i will be joining our fellow citizens in remembering those who were lost on that day and honoring all who
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exhibited such extraordinary heroism in the midst of tragedy. i'll have further remarks tomorrow but for now let me just note that tomorrow is a national day of service and reb brans, and i hope each of us finds a way to serve our fellow citizen, not only to reaffirm our deepest value as americans but to rekindle that spirit of unity and common purpose that we felt in the days that followed that september morning. and, now, i'd's be happy to take some questions, and i'm going to tart with darlene supperville of ap. >> thank you, mr. president. you said this week that democrats wouldn't do well in the november elections if it turns out to be a referendum on the economy. but with millions of people out of work, and millions of people losing their homes, how could it not be a referendum on the economy and your handling of it, and why would you not welcome
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that? >> well what i said was that if it was just a referendum on whether we made the kind of progress that we need to, then people around the country would say, we're not there yet. if the election is about the policies that are going to move us forward versus the policies that will get us back into a mess, then i think the democrats will do very well. and here's why. as i just indicated, middle-class families had been struggling for a decade, before i came into office. their wages and incomes had flatlined. they were seeing the costs of everything from health care to sending their kids to college going up. job growth was the weakest of any economic expansion between 2001 and 2008 since world war ii. the pace was slower than it's been over the last year.
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so these policies of cutting taxes for the wealthiest americans, of stripping away regulations that protect consumers, running up a record surplus to a record deficit, those policies finally culminated in the worst financial crisis we've had since the great depression. and for 19 months, what we have done is steadily worked to avoid a depression, to take an economy that was contracting rapidly and making it grow again, a situation where we were losing 750,000 jobs a month, and now we've had 8 consecutive months of private-sector job growth, and made investments that are going to strengthen the economy over the long term. but we are not there yet.
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we lost 4 million jobs in the six months before i was sworn in. and we lost 8 million jobs total during the course of this recession. that is a huge hole to dig ourselves out of, and people who have lost their jobs around the country and can't find one, moms who are sending out resum├ęs and not getting calls back, worried about losing homes, not being able to pay bills, they're not feeling good right now. and i understand that. and i ran precisely because i did not think middle-class families in this country were getting a fair shake, and i ran because i felt that we had to have a different economic philosophy in order to grow. that middle class can grow our economy over the long term. for all of the progress we made, we are not there yet. that means that the people are frustrated, and that means people are angry. and since i'm the president and
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democrats have control of the house and the senate, it's understandable that people are saying, you know, what have you done, but between now and november, what i'm going to remind the american people of is that the policies that we have put in place have moved us in the right direction. and the policies that the republicans are offering right now are the exact policies that got us into this mess. it's not a situation where they went and reflected and said to themselves, you know what, we didn't do some things right, and so we've got a whole bunch of new ideas out here that we want to present to you that we think are going to help put us on the path of strong growth. that's not what happens. the chairman of their committee said we would do the exact same things that we did before obama took office. well, we know where that led. and a perfect example is the
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debate we're having on taxes right now. i have said that middle class families need tax relief right now. it and i'm prepared to work on a bill inside a bill this month that would ensure that middle-class families get tax relief. 97% of americans make less than $250,000 a year, $250,000 a year or less, and i'm saying we can give those families 97% permanent tax relief, and, by the way, for those that make more than $250,000, they still get tax relief on the first $200,000, not above that. that seems like a common-sense thing to do, and what i've got is republicans holding middle-class tax relief hostage because they're insisting we got to give tax relief to
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millionaires and billionaires to the tune of about $100,000 per millionaire, which would cost over the course of ten years, 7$700 billion, and economists sy that is probably the worst way to stimulate the economy. that doesn't make sense, and that's an example of what this election is all about. if you want the same kinds of skewed policies that led us to this crisis, then, the republicans are ready to offer that. but if you want policies that are moving us out, even though you may be frustrated, even though change isn't happening as fast as you'd like, then i think democrats are going to do fine in november. okay, karen. >> thank you, mr. president.
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you're looking for a republican help on the economic proposals that you unveiled this week, and you also mentioned the small business bill, but you'red a odds with them over tax cuts. is there room for a middle ground whereby, for example, the tax cuts on the wealthy could be extended for a period of time and then allowed to expire? >> well, certainly, there's going to be room for discussion. my hope is that on this small business bill that is before the senate right now, that we actually make some progress. i still don't understand why we didn't pass to two months ago. as i said, this was written by democrats and republicans. this is a bill that traditionally you'd probably get 90% or 100% republican support. but we've been playing politics for the past several months, and if the republican leadership is prepared to get serious about doing something for families that are hurting out there, i
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would love to talk to them. now, on the high-income tax cuts, my position is let's get done what we all agree on. what they've said is they agree that the middle-class tax cuts should be made permanent. let's work on that. let's do it. we can have a further conversation about how they want to spend an additional $700 billion to give an average of $100,000 to millionaires that i think is a bad idea. if you were going to spend that money, there are a lot better ways of spending it, but more to the point, these are the same folks who say they're concerned about the deficits. why would we borrow money on policies that won't help the economy and help people who don't need help? but, setting that aside, we've got an area of agreement, which
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is let's help families out there who are having a tough time. as i said, we could this month give every american certainty in tax relief up to $250,000 a year. every single american would benefit from that. now, people who nak $250,000 a year or less, they'd benefit on all of their income. people who make $1 million would benefit on a quarter of their income, but the point is that that's something we can all agree to. why hold it up? why hold the middle class hostage in order to do something that most economists don't think makes sense? what i'm saying is let's do what we agree to, and what the
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americans, people, overwhelmingly agree to, which is let's give certainty to families out there that are having a tough time. chip reed. >> thank you, mr. president. on the economic package that you rolled out earlier this week. first on the business tax cuts, why did you wait until this super heated campaign season to roll it out? a lot of your critics, and even some democrats say, clearly, he's just using this for political purposes, he doesn't have any expectation it's going to be passed. it's a political weapon. why did you wait so long to bring it out? on the stimulus part, we can't get people in the white house to say it's stimulus. $50 billion on roads and other infrastructure but they avoid the word "stimulus" like the plague? is that because the first
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stimulus package was oh unpopular, and if so, why is it so unpopular? >> let me go back to why i first came into the office. we had an immediate task, which was to rescue an economy that was tipping over a cliff, and we put in place an economic plan that 95% of economists say substantially helped us avoid a depression. one-third of those were tax cuts, by the way. one-third of that economic plan was tax cuts for individuals and for small businesses. so this notion that we waited until now to put forward a series. plans, chip, we've just on the small business issue alone, have cut tacks for small businesses eight times during the course of the last 18 months. so we're hardly johnny-come-latelies on this issue. so when you put all of the things we've done together, it
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has made a difference. 3 million people have jobs that wouldn't have them otherwise had we not taken these steps. the economy would be in much worse shape, but, as i said before, we're not where we need to go yet, which means if we're not there yet, what else can we do? and the proposals that we've put forward are ones that historically, again, have garnered bipartisan support. a research and development tax credit so that companies that are investing in research here in the united states which is part of what's going to keep us growing and keep us innovative, let's make sure that, you know, companies are stroly innocent viced to do that. making sure that they're expensing accelerated business depreciation is happening in 2011 so that if companies are sort of sitting on the sidelines right now, not sure whether they should invest, let's give them incentive to go ahead and invest
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now to give that a jump start. on infrastructure, we've got a highway bill that traditionally is done every six year, and what we're saying is, let's ramp up, beef it up a little bit because we have this infrastructure all across the country that everybody from governors to mayors to economists from all political stripes have said is holding us back in terms of our long-term competitiveness. let's get started now rebuilding america. in terms of paying for some of these things, let's stop giving tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas. let's stop incentivizing that. let's give tax breaks to countries working here in america. those are all common sense approaches. you know. you've been around for a long time. usually republicans and democrats agree on infrastructure. usually republicans and democrats agree on making sure
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that research and development investments are made right here in the united states. and so, let's get it done. it it has nothing to do with the notion that somehow what we did previously didn't work. it worked. it just hasn't done as much as we needed to do. we've still got a long ways to go, and we're going to keep on doing it. >> so this is a second stimulus? >> you know, here's how -- there is no doubt that everything we've been trying to do, everything we've been trying to do is designed to stimulate growth and additional jobs in the economy. i mean, that's our entire agenda. so, i have no problem with people saying the president is trying to stimulate growth and hiring. isn't that what i should be doing? i would assume that's what the
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republicans think we should do, to stimulate growth and jobs. and i will keep on trying to stimulate growth and jobs for as long as i'm president of the united states. >> hos nickels. >> it's now been more than two months since the financial regulation reform bill passed. a center piece of that is consumer finance protection bureau and yet you haven't named a head. is elizabeth warren still a leading candidate, and if not, are you worried about some sort of senate hurdle for her confirmation. >> this is a great opportunity to talk about what i think will be hugely helpful to middle class families in the years to come, and what is an agency that has been set up, an independent
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agency, whose sole job is to protect families in their financial transactions. so, you know, if you are getting a credit card, we are going to have an agency that makes sure that that credit card company can't jack up your rates without any reason, including on old balances, and that could save american consumers tense of billions of dollars just in the first couple of years. if you are out there looking for a mortgage, and we all know that part of the problem with the financial crisis was that folks were peddling mortgages that were unstable that had these huge balloon payments, that people didn't fully understand well. now there's going to be some oversight in terms of how mortgages are shaped, and people are going to have to actually know what they're getting, what they're buying into, and that's going to protect the economy as well as individual consumers. so this agency, i think, has the
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capacity to really provide middle-class families the kind of protection that's been lacking for too long. now, the idea for this agency was elizabeth warren's. she's a dear friend of mine, somebody i've known since i was in law school. and, you know, i have been in conversations with her. she is a tremendoused a vo ed ar this idea. it's only been a couple of months, and this is a big task, standing up this entire agency, so i'll have an announcement soon about how we're going to move forward. i think what's fair to say is that i have had conversations with elizabeth over the course of these last couple of months, but i'm not going to make an official announcement until it's ready. >> are you unofficially concerned about a senate confirmation? >> you know, i'm concerned about all senate confirmations these
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days. but with respect to elizabeth warren, are you? >> i wasn't trying to be funny. i am concerned about all senate nominations these days. i've got people who have been waiting for six months to get confirmed who nobody has an official objection to and who were voted out of committee unanimously, and i can't get a vote on them. we have judges who are pending. we've got people who are waiting to help us on critical issues like homeland security, and it's very hard to -- when you've got a determined minority in the senate that insists on a 60-vote filibuster on every single person that we're trying to confirm, even if after we break the filibuster it turns out that they get 90 votes. they're just playing games. and as, i think senator
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voinovich said very well, it's time to stop playing gapes. aur, chuck todd. >> given the theme, i think, of all your answers, i just got a short question for you. how have you changed washington? >> well, i'll tell you how we've changed washington. prior to us getting here, as i indicated before, you had a set of policies that were skewed towards special interests, skewed towards the most powerful, and ordinary families out there were being left behind, and since we've gotten here, whether it's making sure that folks who can't get health insurance because of pre-existing conditions, can now get health insurance, or children who didn't have coverage now have coverage, whether it's making sure that credit card companies have to actually post an understandable ways what your credit card rates
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are, and they can't jack up existing balances in arbitrary ways, whether it's making sure that we've got clean water and clean air for future generations, whether it's making sure that tax cuts go to families that need it as opposed to folks who don't -- on a whole range of issues over the last 18 month, we've put in place policies that are going to help grow a middle class and lay the faunds for long-term economic growth opinion now, you're asking why haven't i been able to create a greater spirit of cooperation in washington, you know, i think that's fair. i'm as frustrated as anybody by it. i think part of it has to do with the fact that when we came
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into office, we came in under very tough economic circumstances. and i think that some of the republican leaders made a decision, we're going to sit on the sidelines and let the democrats try to solve it. and so we got a lot of resistance very early. i think what's also true is that when you take on tough issues, like health care, or financial regular story reform, where special interests are deeply entrenched, there's a lot of money at stake for them, and where the issues are so complicateded that it drags on for a long time, you end up having a lot of big fights here in town, and it's messy, and it's frustrating. and so, you know, there is no
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doubt that an option that was available to me when i came in was not to take on those issues. i mean, we could have decided, you know what, even though we know that the pace of accelerating health care could haves is going to bankrupt this economy and bankrupt businesses and bankrupt individuals, and even though we know that there are 30 million people and that's a growing number of people who don't have health insurance, we could have second you know what, that's too controversial, let's not take it on, and we could have said with respect to financial regulatory reform, you know what, we're going to get too much resistance from republicans, we shouldn't take that on. i don't think that's the kind of leadership that the american people would want from their president, and are there, you
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know, things that i might have done during the course of 18 months that would have at the margins have improved some of the tone in washington, probably. is some of this just a core difference in approach in terms of how we move this country forward between democrats and republicans, i'd say the answer is a lot more the latter. ann cornblat. >> thank you, mr. president. nine years after the september 11th attacks, why do you think it is that we are now seeing such an increase in suspicion and outright resentment of islam, especially since it's been one of your priorities to improve relations with the muslim world? >> you know, i think that at a
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time when the country is anxious generally and going through a tough time, then fears can surface, suspicions, divisions can surface in a society, and i think that plays a role in it. one of the things that i most admired about president bush was after 9/11 him being crystal clear about the fact that we were not at war with islam. we were at war with terrorists and murderers who had perverted islam, had stolen its banner to carry out their outrageous acts. and i was so proud of the country rallying around that idea, that notion, that we are not going to be divided by
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religion, we're not going to be divided by ethnicity. we are all americans. we stand together against those who would try to do us harm. and that's what we've done over the last nine years, and we should take great pride in that, and i think it is absolutely important now for the overwhelming majority of the american people to hang onto that thing that is best in us. a belief in religious tolerance, a clarity about who our enemies are. our enemies are al qaeda and their allies who are trying to kill us but have killed more muslims than just about anybody on earth. you know, we have to make sure that we don't start turning on each other. and i will do everything that i can as long as i'm president of
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the united states to remind the american people that we are one nation under god and we may call that god different names, but we remain one nation. and, you know, as somebody who, you know, relies heavily on my christian faith in my job, i understand, you know, that the passions that religious faith can raise. but i'm also respectful that people of different faiths can practice their religion even if they don't subscribe to the exact same notions that i do, and that they are still good people and they are my neighbors and they are my friends, and they are fighting alongside us in our battles.
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and, you know, i want to make sure that this country retains that sense of purpose, and i think tomorrow's a wonderful day for us to remind ourselves of that. natasha osgovya. is she here? >> mr. president, the leaders sound a little less ready for the compromise. president abbas says they won't recognize israel as a jewish state. the question is -- if these talks fail at an early stage, will this administration disengage at an early stage or be ready to step up your personal involvement? >> president abbas and prime minister netanyahu who were here
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last week, and they came with a sense of purpose and seriousness and cordiality that, frankly, exceeded a lot of people's expectations. what they said was that they were serious about negotiating, they affirmed the goal of creating two states living side by side in peace and security. they have set up a schedule where they're going to meet every two weeks. we are actively participating in that process. secretary of state hillary clinton will be flying to the middle east for the first series of next meetings on september 14th and 15th, and so what we've done is to bring the parties together to try to get them to
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recognize that the path for israeli security and palestinian sovereignty can only be met through negotiations, and these are going to be tough negotiations. there are enormous hurdles between now and our end point, and they're going to be a whole bunch of folks in the region who want to undermine these negotiations. we saw it when hamas carried out horrific attacks against civilians and skplitly said we're going to try to do this to undermine peace talks. they're going to be rejectionists who suggest that it can't happen and also cynics who just believe that the mistrust between the sides is too deep. we understood all of that. we understood that was a risk for us to promote these
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discussions, but it is a risk worth taking. because i firmly believe that, you know, it is in america's national security interests as well as israel's national security interests as well as in the interest of the palestinian people to arrive at a peace deal. part of the reason that i think prime minister netanyahu was comfortable coming here was that he's seen during the course of 18 months that my administration is unequivocal in our defense of israel's security, and we've engaged in some unprecedented cooperation with israel to make sure that they can deal with any external threats. but i think he also came here understanding that to maintain israel as a jewish state that is also a democratic state, this issue has to be dealt with. i think president abbas came here despite great misgivesings
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and pressure from the other side because he understood that the window for establishing a palestinian state is closing. there are a whole bunch of parties in the region who purport to be friends of the palestinians but do everything they can to avoid the path that would lead to a palestinian state, actually lead to their goal. so the two parties need each other. that doesn't mean it's going to work. ultimately, it's going to be up to them. we can facilitate. we can encourage. we can tell them that we will stand behind them in their efforts and are willing to contribute as part of the broader international community in making this work. but ultimately, the parties have to make these decisions for themselves, and i remain hopeful, but this is going to be tough, and i don't want anybody out there thinking that it's going to be easy.
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the main point i want to make is it's a risk worth taking because the alts turnive is a status quo that is unsustainable. if these talks break down, we're going to keep on trying. in the long-term it has the opportunity, also, to change the strategic landscape in the middle east in a way that would be very helpful. it would help us deal with an iran that has not been willing to give up its nuclear program. it would help us deal with terrorist organizes in the region. so this is something in our interest. we're not just doing this to feel good. we're doing it because it will help secure america as well. jake tapper. >> thank you, mr. president. a couple questions. first, were you concerned at all
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when you -- when the administration had secretary of defense gates call this pastor in florida that you were elevating somebody who is clearly from the fringe? and then, more substantively, on health care reform, this is six months since health care passed, you pledged, a, that you would bend the cost curve, and, b, that democrats would be able to campaign on this, and cms reported yesterday that the cost curve has actually been bending up from 6.1% to 6.3% post health care legislation, and the only democrats i see are running tv ads saying they voted against it. thank you. >> with respect to the individual down in florida, let me just say -- let me repeat what i said a couple of days ago. the idea that we would burn the sacred texts of someone else's
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religion is contrary to what this country stands for. it's contrary to what this nation was founded on. and, you know, my hope is that this individual prays on it and refrains from doing it. but i'm also commander in chief, and we are seeing today riots in kabul, riots in afghanistan, that threaten our young men and women in uniform. and, so, we've got an obligation to send a very clear message that this kind of behavior or threats of action put our young men and women in harm's way. and it's also the best imaginable recruiting tool for al qaeda. and although this may be one individual in florida, part of my concern is to make sure that
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we don't start having a whole bunch of folks all across the country thinking this is the way to get attention. this is a way of endangering our troops, our sons and daughters. fathers and mothers, husbands and wives who are sacrificing for us to keep us safe. you don't play games with that. so, you know, i hardly think we're the ones who elevated this story, but it is in the age of the internet something that can cause us profound damage around the world and so we've got to take it seriously. with respect to health care, what i said during the debate is the same thing i'm saying now, and it's the same thing i will say three or four years from now.
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bending the cost curve on health care is hard to do. we've got hundreds of thousands of providers and doctors and systems and insurers, and what we did was we took every idea out there about how to reduce or at least slow the costs of health care over time, but i said at the time it wasn't going to happen tomorrow. it wasn't going to happen next year. it took us decades to get into a position where our health care costs were going up 6, 7, 10% a year, and so our goal is to slowly bring down those costs. now, we've done so, also, by making sure that 31 million people who aren't getting health
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insurance are going to start getting it. and we have now implemented the first phase of health care in a way that, by the way, has been complimented even by the opponents of health care reform. it has been smooth, and right now middle-class families all across america are going to be able to say to themselves starting this month, you know, if i've got a kid who is under 26 and doesn't have health insurance, that kid can stay on my health insurance. if i've got a child with a pre-existing condition, an insurer can't deny coverage. if i'm sick and i have health care coverage, that insurer can't arbitrarily drop my coverage. there are 4 million small businesses around the country who are already eligible and in some cases will be receiving a 35% tax break on health care for their employees, and i have
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already met small businesses around the country who say, because of that, i'm going to be able to provide health care for my employees. >> a cms study from february predicted a 6.1% increase, and now post health care, 6.3%, so it seems to have bent it up. >> as i said, jacob, i haven't read the entire study. maybe you have. but, you know, if you -- if what the reports are true, what they're saying is that as a consequence of us getting 30 million additional people health care, at the margins that's going to increase our costs. we knew that. we didn't think we were going to cover 30 million people for free, but that the long-term trend in terms of how much the average family is going to be paying for health insurance will be improved as a consequence of health care. and, so, our goal on health care is if we can get instead of
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health care costs going up 6% a year, it's going up at the level of inflation, maybe just slightly above inflation, we've made huge progress, and, by the way, that is the sing. le -- the single most important thing we have done to lower our deficit. >> and the house democrats running against health care, if could you comment on that. >> well, you know, we're in a political season where every candidate out there has their own district, their own makeup, their own plan, their own message. and, you know, in an environment where we've still got 9.5% unemployment, you know, people are going to make the best argument they can right now and they're going to be taking polls
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of what their particular constituents are saying, and trying to align with that often times. you know, that's how political races work. april ryan. >> thank you, mr. president. i want to ask a couple questions. on your economy, could you discuss your efforts on reviewing history as it relates to the poverty agenda, meaning lbj and dr. king, and also, since senate republicans are holding up the issue of pickford two, that you will make sure that those awards are funded? >> let me take the second question for. for those who aren't familiar, cobell and pickford relate to settlements surrounding historic discrimination against minority farmers who weren't oftentimes
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provided the same benefits as everybody else under the usda. it is a fair settlement. it is a just settlement. we think we should fund that settlement and make it a priority. with respect to, you know, the history of fighting poverty, you know, i got my start in public service as -- as a community organizer working in the shadow steel plants that have been closed in some of the poorest neighborhoods on the south side of chicago. that's what led me to want to serve. and so, you know, i'm constantly thinking about how do we create ladders for communities and individuals to climb into the middle class. now, i think the history of anti
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poverty efforts is that the most important anti poverty effort is growing the economy and making sure there are enough jobs out there. single-most important thing we can do. it's more important than any program we can set up, it's more important than any transfer payment that we could have. if we can grow the economy faster and create more jobs, then everybody is swept up. into that virtuous cycle. and if the economy is shrinking and things are going badly, then the folks who are most vulnerable are going to be those poorest communities. so what we want to focus on right now is broad-based job growth. and broad-based economic expansion. and we're doing so against some tough headwinds, because as i said, we are coming out of a
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very difficult -- very difficult time. we have started to turn the corner, but we're not there yet. and so that is going to be my central focus. how do i grow the economy, how do i make sure that there's more job growth. that doesn't mean that there aren't some targeted things we can do to help communities that are especially in need. and probably the most important thing we can do after growing the economy generally is how can we improve school systems in low-income communities? and i am very proud of the efforts that we have made on education reform, which have received praise from democrats and republicans. this is one area where actually we have seen some good bipartisan cooperation. and the idea is very simple. if we can make sure that we have the very best teachers in the classroom, if we can reward
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excellence instead of mediocrity and the status quo. if we can make sure that we're tracking progress in real, serious ways, and we're willing to make investments in what goes on in the classroom and not the school bureaucracy, and reward innovation, then schools can improve. there are models out there of schools in the toughest inner city neighborhood that are now graduating kids 90% of whom are going to college. and the key is how do we duplicate those. and so what our race to the top program has done is it said to every state around the country, instead of just getting money based on a formula, we want you to compete. show us how you are reforming your school systems to promote excellence, based on proven ideas out there. and if you do that, we're going reward you with some extra money. and just the competition alone
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has actually spurred 46 states so far to initiate legislation designed to reform the school system. so we're very proud of that. and that, i think, is going to be one of the most important things we can do. it's not just, by the way, k-12. it's also -- it's also higher education. and as a consequence of a battle that we had, and it was a contentious battle in congress, we have been able to take tens of billions of dollars that were going to banks and financial intermedia intermediaries and the student loan program and said we're going to give that money directly to students so that they get more help going to college. and obviously, poor kids are the ones who are going to benefit most from those programs. elaine cooper.
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>> thank you, mr. president. two questions. one on afghanistan. how can you let your hamad karzai about corruption when so many of these corrupt people are on the u.s. payroll? and on the middle east. do you believe that israeli prime minister benjamin netanyahu should extend the settlement moratorium as a gesture to peace? and if he doesn't, what are you prepared to do to stop the palestinians from walking? >> okay. the -- on afghanistan. we are in the midst of a very difficult, but very important project. i just want to remind people why we're there the day before september 11th. we're there because that was the place where al qaeda launched an attack that killed 3,000 americans.
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and we want to make sure that we dismantle al qaeda and that afghanistan is never again used as a base for attacks against americans and the american homeland. now, afghanistan is also the second poorest country the in the world. it's got a illiteracy rate of 70%. it has a multiethnic population that mistrusts oftentimes each other. and it doesn't have a tradition of a strong central government. so what we have done is to say we are going to -- after seven years of drift, after seven years of policies in it which, for example, we weren't even effectively training afghan security forces, what we have done is to say, we're going to work with the afghan government
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to train afghan security forces so they can be responsible for their own security. we are going to promote a political settlement in the region that can help to reduce the violence. we are going to encourage a afghan government that can deliver services for its people. and we're going to try to make sure that as part of helping president karzai stand up a broadly accepted, legitimate government, that corruption is reduced. and we have made progress on some of those fronts. i mean, when it comes to corruption, i'll just give you an example. four years ago, 11 judges in the afghan legal system were indicted for corruption.
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this year, 86 were indicted for corruption. we have seen afghan-led efforts that have gone after police commanders, significant business people in afghanistan. but we're a long way from where we need to be on that. and every time i talk to president karzai, i say that as important as it is for us to help you train your military and your police forces, the only way that you are going to have a stable government over the long-term is if the afghan people feel that you're looking out for them. and that means making sure that the tradition of corruption in the government is reduced. and we're going to keep on putting pressure on that front. is it going to happen overnight? probably not. are there going to be occasions
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where we look and see that some of our folks on the ground have made compromises with people who are known to have engaged in corruption? yep. we're reviewing all that constantly. and there may be occasions where that happens. and i think you're certainly right, helene, that we're not sending a mixed message here. so one of the things that i've said to my national security team is, let's be consistent. in terms of how we operate across agencies. let's make sure that our efforts there are not seen as somehow giving a wink and a nod to corruption. if we are saying publicly that that's important, then our actions have to match up across board. and you know -- but it is a challenging environment. in which to do that. now, with respect to prime minister netanyahu and the
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middle east. a major bone of contention during the course of this month is going to be the potential lapse of the settlement moratorium. the irony is that when prime minister netanyahu put the moratorium in place, the palestinians were very skeptical. they said, ah, this doesn't do anything. and it turns out, to prime minister netanyahu's credit, the settlement has actually been significant. it has significantly reduced settlement construction in the region. and that's why now the palestinians say, you know what, even though we weren't that keen on it at first, or we thought it was just window dressing, it turns out this is important to us. what i've said to prime minister netanyahu is that given so far
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the talks are moving forward in a constructive way, it makes sense to extend that moratorium, so long as the talks are moving in a constructive way. because ultimately, the way to solve these problems is for the two sides to agree, what's it going to be, israel? what's it going to be, the state of palestine? and if you can get that agreement, then you can start constructing anything that the people of israel see fit. in undisputed areas. now, i think the politics for prime minister netanyahu were very difficult. his coalition -- i think there are a number of members of his coalition who said we don't want to continue this. and so i -- you know, one of the things i've said to president abbas is, you've got to show the
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israeli public that you are serious, and constructive. in these talks. so that the politics for prime minister netanyahu, if he were to extend the settlement moratorium, would be a little bit easier. and, you know, one of the goals, i think, that i've set for myself and for my team is to make sure that president abbas and prime minister netanyahu start thinking about how can they help the other succeed? is as opposed to how do they figure out a way for the other to fail. because if they're going to be successful in bringing about what they now agree is the best course of action for their people, the only way they're going to succeed is if they are seeing the world through the other person's eyes.
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and that requires a personal relationship and building trust, hopefully these meetings will help do that. okay. ann compton. >> mr. president, what does it say about the state us of american system of justice when so many of those who are thought to be plotters for september 11th or accused of suspected terrorists are still awaiting any kind of trial? are you -- why are you still convinced that a civilian trial is correct for sheikh -- khalid shake mohammed, and why has that stalled? and will kwan guantanamo remain open for another year? >> we have succeeded on delivering a lot of campaign promises that we made. one where we have fallen short
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is closing guantanamo. i wanted to close it sooner. we have missed that deadline. it's not for lack of trying. it's because the politics of it are difficult. now, i am absolutely convinced that the american justice system is strong enough that we should be able to convict people who murdered innocent americans, who carried out terrorist attacks against us. we should be able to lock them up and make sure that they don't see light of day. we can do that. we have done it before. we've got people who engage in terrorist attacks who are in our prisons, maximum security prisons all across the country. but, you know, this is an issue that has generated a lot of
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political rhetoric. and people understandably, you know, are fearful. but one of the things that i think is worth reflecting on after 9/11 is, you know, this country is so resilient, we are so tough, we can't be frightened by a handful of people who are trying to do us harm, especially when we have captured them and we've got the goods on them. so, you know, i've also said that there are going to be circumstances where a military tribunal may be appropriate. and reason for that is -- and i'll just give a specific example. there may be situations in which somebody was captured in theater.
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is now in guantanamo. it's very hard to piece together a chain of evidence that would meet some of the evidentiary standards that would be required in an article 3 court. but we know that this person is guilty, there's sufficient evidence to bring about a conviction. so what i've said is, you know, the military commission system that we set up, where appropriate for certain individuals, that would make it -- it would be difficult to try in article 3 courts, for a range of reasons, we can reform that system so that it meets the highest standards of due process, and prosecute them there. and so i'm prepared to work with democrats and republicans and we, over the course of the last year, have been in constant conversations with them about setting up a sensible system in
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which we are prosecuting, where appropriate, those in article 3 courts. we are prosecuting others where appropriate through a military tribunal, and in either case, let's put them in prisons where our track record is they have never escaped. and by the way, just from a purely fiscal point of view, the costs of holding folks in guantanamo is massively higher than it is holding them in a super max -- maximum security prison here in the united states. >> how about khalid shaikh mohammed? will that trial ever happen? >> i think it needs to happen. and we're going to work with members of congress, and this is going to have to be on a bipartisan basis to move this forward in a way that is
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consistent with our standards of due process, consistent with our constitution. consistent also with our image in world. of a country that cares about rule of law. you can't underestimate the impact of that. you know, al qaeda operatives still cite guantanamo as a justification for attack against the united states. still, to this day. and there is no reason for us to give them that kind of talking point when, in fact, we can use the various mechanisms of our justice system to prosecute these folks, and to make sure that they never attack us again. okay. ed henry. >> talking about some of the al qaeda leaders that you have
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captured. one that you have not is osama bin laden. tomorrow is going to be nine years since he was the mastermind of 3,000 americans being killed. and what you said -- obviously, the last administration had seven years and couldn't do it. but what you said as president elect to cbs is, quote, i think capturing or killing bin laden is a critical aspect of stamping out al qaeda. he is not just a symbol, he is also the operational leader of an organization planning attacks against the u.s. do you still believe it's a critical part of your policy to capture or kill him, and isn't it a failure of administration, where here it's almost two years in, your campaign saying you were going to run a smarter war on terror than the bush administration? you haven't captured him and you don't seem to know where he is. >> well, ed, i think capturing or killing bin laden and zawahiri would be extremely important to our national security. doesn't solve all our problems, but it remains a high priority of this administration.
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one of the things that we have been very successful at over the last two years is to ramp up the pressure on al qaeda. and their key leaders. and as a consequence, they have been holed up in ways that have made it harder for them to operate. and part of what's happened is bin laden has gone deep under ground. even zawahiri, who is more often out there has been much more cautious. but we have the best minds, the best intelligence officers, the best special forces, who are thinking about this day and night. and they will continue to think about it day and night, as long as i'm president. >> so do you think americans are going to face another nine years of this terror threat, another generation? what's your message? >> well, here's what i think. i think that in this day and
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age, there are going to be -- there is always going to be the potential for an individual or a small group of individuals, if they are willing to die, to kill other people. some of them are going to be very well organized, and some of them are going to be random. that threat is there, and it's important, i think, for the american people to understand that, and not to live in fear. it's just a reality of today's world that there are going to be threats out there. we have, i think, greatly improved our homeland security since 9/11 occurred. you know, i am constantly impressed with the dedication that our teams apply to this problem. they are chasing down every
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thread, not just from al qaeda, but any other actor out there that might be engaging in terrorism. they are making sure that even a -- what might appear to be a lone individual who has very little organizational capacity, if they make a threat, they follow up. but one of the things that i want to make sure we do as long as i'm president and beyond my presidency, is to understand america's strength in part comes from its resilience, and that we don't start losing who we are or overreacting if, in fact, there is -- there is the threat of terrorism out there. we go about our business, we are tougher than them.
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our families and our businesses and our churches and mosques and synagogues and our constitution, our values, that's what gives us strength. and we are going to have this problem out there for a long time to come. but it doesn't have to complete completely distort us, and it doesn't have to dominate our foreign policy. what we can do is to constantly fight against it. and i think ultimately we are going to be able to stamp it out. but it's going to take some time. >> last question. >> wendell. >> thank you, mr. president. i wonder if i can get you to weigh in on wisdom of building a mosque a couple of blocks from ground zero. we know that the organizers have the constitutional right. what would it say about this country if they were somehow talked out of doing that? and hasn't the florida minister's threat to burn a
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couple hundred copies of the koran -- hasn't the threat itself put american lives in danger, sir? >> well, on the second -- on your second question, there's no doubt that when someone goes out of their way to be provocative in ways that we know can inflame the passions of over a billion muslims around the world, at a time when we've got our troops in a lot of muslim countries, that's a problem. and it has made life a lot more difficult for our men and women in uniform who already have a very difficult job. with respect to the mosque in new york, you know, i think i've been pretty clear on my position here. and that is that this country stands for the proposition that
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all men and women are created equal. that they have certain inalienable rights. one of those inalienable rights is to practice their religion freely. and what that means is that if you could build a church on a site, you could build a synagogue on a site, if you could build a hindu temple on a site, then you should be able to build a mosque on the site. now, i recognize the extraordinary sensitivities around 9/11. you know, i've met with families of 9/ 11 victims in the past. you know, i can only imagine the continuing pain and anguish and sense of loss that they may go through. and tomorrow we, as americans, are going to be joining them in
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prayer. and remembrance. but i go back to what i said earlier. we are not at war against islam. we are at war against terrorist organizations that have distorted islam, or falsely used the banner of islam to engage in their destructive acts. and we've got to be clear about that. we've got to be clear about that, because if we're going to deal with the problems that ed henry was talking about, if we're going to successfully reduce the terrorist threat, then we need all the allies we can get. the folks who are most interested in a war between the united states or the west and islam are al qaeda. that's what they have been banking on. and fortunately, the
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overwhelming majority of muslims around the world are peace-loving, are interested in the same things that you and i are interested in. how do i make sure i can get a good job? how can i make sure that my kids get a decent education? how can i make sure i'm safe? how can i improve my lot in life? and so they have rejected this violent ideology for the most part. overwhelmingly. and so from a national security interest, we want to be clear about who the enemy is here. it's a handful of tiny minority of people who are engaging in horrific acts. and have killed muslims more than anybody else. the other reason it's important for us to remember that is because we have got millions of muslim americans, our fellow citizens, in this country, they're going to school with our
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kids. they're our neighbors. they're our friends. they're our co-workers. and, you know, when we start acting as if their religion is somehow offensive, what are we saying to them? i've got muslims who are fighting in afghanistan. in the uniform of the united states' armed services. they're out there putting their lives on the line for us. and we've got to make sure that we are crystal-clear for our sakes and their sakes. they are americans. and we honor their service. and part of honoring their service is making sure they understand that we don't differentiate. between them and us.
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it's just us. and that is a principle that i think is going to be very important for us to sustain and i think tomorrow is an excellent time for us to reflect on that. thank you very much, everybody. >> the president of the united states leaving. i'm john king in washington. this is a special edition of the cnn "newsroom." 1 hour and 17 minutes, the president first delivering an opening statement and then taking questions. he called on 13 correspondents in all. the topics ranged from what the president came into the east room to talk about, the economy, to just about everything else. middle east peace, policies here at home, a war on poverty, what would he do about poverty at home, to the last question about the proposed koran burning by a minister, and the president's views on whether a mosque and islamic cultural center should be built just steps from ground zero. a question the president
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answering one day before the nation marks the ninth anniversary of 9/11. i a lot to talk about including the economic debate. the best political team on television is with us. let's start with david gergen, who has been watching from are boston. david, aot of ground covered. what did you come away with? >> well, john, i -- once again, he impresses everyone with his competence. he has capacity to deal with a range of issues, the subtly of his mind i think is very impressive. at the same time, i thought it was mostly passionless, and frankly boring. as it went on and on. until that last question on the mosque. and then it came alive. and i think the president -- that's going to be -- his statements today, very passionate, controversial. but -- he took a much clearer stand in favor of the mosque, going there, than anything he said in the past. >> and to david gergen's point as we come back into the room here, candy. the president, of course, the goal here was to say, look, i'm trying. i know it's tough out there.
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our economic policies are the right policies, and the republican policies are the wrong policies that would take you back, we have heard that over ask over again. but david is dead on in that the president gave substantive answers. i'm looking at one that ran six minutes, one ran three, one ran seven. long, substantive answers, but only in the end there did he seem to get fired up about, look, there are muslim troops serving under me, your commander in chief, and we need to be careful about the message we sent. >> yes. and perhaps part of the reason is there was very little new we heard in terms of the economy. he's done this before. he said -- i mean, at times, it was a campaign speech. so we have heard this. he has heard this. and he is not a guy that really likes particularly the repetition of the campaign trail and the -- saying things over and over again. so maybe that accounts for it, but there was something we all noticed and it comes to what maybe this fall's hot topic, although there are some democrats that would make to make sure it isn't, and that is the idea of the expiring bush
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tax cuts, and what the administration wants to do is keep them in place for the middle class, two words we heard a lot. but go ahead and let those tax cuts expire. for those making -- couples making $250,000 and over. so the question to the president was is there any wiggle room, and is here was the question and answer. >> well, certainly there is going to be room for discussion. my hope is that on this small business build that is before the senate right now that we actually make some progress. i still don't understand why we didn't pass that two months ago. as i said, this was written by democrats and republicans. this is a bill that traditionally, you would probably get 90% or 100% republican support. but we have been playing politics for the last several months. and if the republican leadership is prepared to get serious about doing something for families
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that are hurting out there, i would love to talk to them. >> so first -- is there wigglel room here with the president? is he willing to talk about some extra extension of those tax cuts for the wealthy or not? try to interpret that for us? >> i'm not really sure. i heard yes, that he's willing to talk about it. and i also heard no. i really think this goes back to -- i forget who asked the question. but isn't this just politics? you wait until the end. and the problem for the president is, the american public has seen him, despite having this republican filibuster attempts in the senate pass health care reform, pass the stimulus, pass financial reform, and now he's going to say, but i can't pass anything for the middle class, because of the republicans. that calculus isn't going to add up for people. >> let me bring in roland martin who has been standing by and listening. roland, part of the reason that the administration held this news conference is the president has got to get all of those people who voted for him in 2008 to come out and vote for democrats in 2010.
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did you see anything in this news conference where you think voters went, yeah, i've got to get out and go to those polls? >> well, i think -- first of all, remember, we're in the midst of the nfl kicking off this weekend, and so i'll use a football analogy. he's the quarterback while doing that, houston, texans. he's the quarterback and has to set the tone. so part of the problem here is the white house and democrats have been off. so when he comes out and says, look, i will sign this bill this month as it relates to middle class tax cuts, what are you going to do, what do you want to do? that's the way of doing that. he also, i think, broke down in a sense what the democrats have to articulate. and that is, how bad of a situation we were in approximate, walking to the door, and how we are on this road to progress. and i think he could have been more clear, by saying, look, republicans constantly have thrown up roadblocks, constantly are saying no, blocking appointments, they want to block progress. that's what he was really trying to do there. let me address something david
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said. they talked about, well, the nuance and what he said, and it was boring. well, you know what, he's not an entertainer. and so i never get the sense watching the president, that the president really should be entertaining and really should come out, you know, guns blazing. he is going to talk about policy, and these issues. and so i listen to anybody out of washington, d.c., i'm really not looking for somebody who is going to just enamel more me in terms of how great they are. they're going to talk about things in a substantive way. ask so that's really how i took it. and i think anybody who is wanting the president to say something when it comes to policy, you got that, not entertain many. >> i think roland makes an interesting point in saying that he's not looking for an entertain entertainer, and we need to remember in today's day of education, there are many different audiences. how many people are watching on a friday afternoon, and how many people will get this news in so many different ways, whether radio or television, whether it's on the internet, whether it's from their own interest groups, the e-mail chains, the
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blog that eric writes. so people will get this from the niche, the economic outlets will write about the economy stuff. my question, gloria, we're heading into the 9/11 weekend. tomorrow is the ninth anniversary. the president wants to have a conversation about the economy. he wants to help democratic candidates out there in their races. but my bet is for the next 24 to 48 hours, in part because of the anniversary, and in part because of what the president said at the very end, the conversation is going to be, the president once again, very publicly saying, the developers of that mosque and islamic cultural center near ground zero have every right to build it, and he says -- essentially saying those who oppose it, be careful what the message you're sending. >> right. >> ask talking a bit about the pastor who was threatening us. that's going to dominate the conversation for the next 24 to 48 hours. >> it was interesting, because he brought up george w. bush, not in terms of leaving the economy in a ditch, as he would say, but he brought up george w. bush, to say one thing, he really respected about president bush was the way he said, this is not a war on islam.
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and he used that as a way to talk about the right to build the mosque and to talk about why he should not burn the koran. and is what also struck me is kind of interesting to me. he was so passionate, as david pointed out, when he spoke about the mosque. less so on the economy. and maybe that's because the arguments are not so clear on the economy. the argument he is making on the economy is that it could be worse, right? and that -- that's not a passionate argument. and it's a difficult argument when you've got 10% unemployment. the point he's making on the mosque is very clear-cut. so it's easier for him to be a little bit -- a little bit more emotional about that. >> and let's -- you mentioned the president praising george w. bu bush. if approximate you talk to people close to the president, they would degree agree with you, and also say that as an african-american who has experienced discrimination in his life, this is a more personal issue. let's hear about the president
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talking about president bush and president obama set the tone just right. >> one of the things i most admired about president bush was after 9/11, him being crystal-clear about the fact that we were not at war with islam. we are at war with terrorists and murderers who have perverted islam, had stolen its banner to carry out their outrageous acts. and i was so proud of the country rallying around that idea. that notion. that we are not going to be divided by religion, we're not going to be divided by ethnicity. we are all americans. we stand together against those who would try to do us alarm. >> okay. so donna, the president makes that case there, and then at the very end gets more animated and passionate. and essentially, i'm paraphrasing, saying be careful to anyone out there who opposes those plans for the cultural
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center and mosque near ground zero. the president, as he says that, knows that if you poll and ask that simple question, should it be there, about 7 in 10 americans say no. >> you know, i understand the need to always use polls to guide our thinking. but, you know, nine years ago, we were attacked. the country was attacked. we came together as one nation to try to figure out what happened and how to go after those who attacked our nation. i think tomorrow is a day, as the president said, a day of service, a day to remember the attack, but also remember that we, every american, practically, stood together and said we wanted to help those who have been attacked. muslim-americans also died that day. muslin-americans have also given their lives in the cause of freedom and justice overseas. i think that's why the president became animated. not because of his own personal experience so much, but because that day, nine years ago, we all came together as one people. >> it sort of occurs to me this is not a subject he actually
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wanted to have come up. >> you know, i was going to say that. the take-away from this should have been the discussion of the tax cuts and what have you. but i'm getting on e-mail right now, in addition to the fact that he used word stimulus, that the only thing that fired him up in this is a topic that 75% of americans disagree with him on. and it comes to this issue of independence, i think, where there is a sense out there that polling is picking up, and you have a lot of independents, forget conservatives, who have a different world view from him, which is disagreeing with the guy on policy. >> what about giving him props for that? >> you know what, john -- >> go ahead, roland. >> first of all, i can appreciate a president of the united states recognizing that we have a -- have a constitution that talks about religious freedom. i can appreciate a president, even if there are people with this whole different world view, who recognizes that there are muslims who are indeed americans. maybe the problem here is not
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the president, maybe the problem here is we have some americans who don't want to fully accept that there are muslim-americans. that we are indeed one country. that's really what i see here. but also, when we talk about what's going to dominate the conversation, let's also be honest. we set the conversation. if we spend more time talking about a new york mosque or this preacher in this -- this preacher in florida as opposed to the economy, then we also -- are also driving conversation. so let's not remove ourselves from this whole issue. >> you know, and i think the president wanted -- he came to this press conference -- he was a man with a mission, right? i mean, he was on message, as -- as on message as i have ever seen him about the middle class, the middle class tax cuts, why can't we all get together on a small jobs bill? leaving the door a little bit open for maybe a bit of a compromise. i think we heard that on the -- on the extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy for a while. if he gets a jobs bill. that's important to the american
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public. and that was something -- he said over and over and over and over again. >> let me just -- i want to wrap-up with something that -- and david, i'll get to you in just a second. i want to play something to roland's point about responsibility. but the fact of the matter is, when the president was asked directly, okay, setting aside freedom of religion. we all understand you're for freedom of religion. how do you feel about the wisdom of this? and i think he went further than he has gone about allowing that mosque to go up near ground zero. take a listen. >> one of those inalienable rights is to practice their religion freely. and what that means is that if you could build a church on a site, you could build a synagogue on a site, if you could build a hindu temple on a site, then you should be able to build a mosque on a site. >> now, again, i mean, he's
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talking about being able t and david gergen, let me bring you in on this. it does seem the president went a little bit further, in shouldn't we sort of give some high marks to a president who is willing to take on a polling that shows that most people are opposed to this, and to move ever closer to saying, yeah, they ought to build it there? >> that's an interesting question, candy. i do think that you're right on your first point, and that is that after the -- his first statement seemed to suggest he thought they had a right to do it and should go forward. the next day he backed away and said i wasn't really talking about the wisdom of doing this. so there was a sense of wavering and having it both ways. today i thought he was much more clear-cut. not only do they have a legal right to do it, but i think it is the right thing to do, and we should embrace -- we should embrace this as part of embracing american muslims. that is -- given the polls, yes, there is courage in doing that. i think he did come squarely down on that.
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but, you know, this is a matter of controversy. we're going to continue to talk about this. i want to go back to, though, what i thought the purpose of the press conference was. he came out out of the gate with a nakedly partisan statement, attack on republicans, right off the top. so that he clearly was trying to use this press conference to encourage and rally democrats. and my only point about the boring quality was that i wasn't at all sure in the conversation that followed that he was very professorial. i just didn't think there was much electricity to it. i don't think he was supposed to be an entertainer, but there was a time when barack obama the candidate, when he spoke about issues, created an enormous sense of electricity, of hope, stirred people's hopes. and i think that somehow over time that's been -- that's been lost. and i think he hasn't quite found his voice yet again. so that i'm not looking for an entertainer, but i do think that it's worth understanding that
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one of the reasons he's having trouble rallying democrats is his voice isn't -- isn't communicating in the same way. >> but also i think we have to -- we also have to recognize that when you are running for office, you are operating in different settings, as opposed to the east room of the white house. the second thing is, the gravity of the situation. i don't think the president can come out, you know, frankly, as vigorous as he was campaigning, as he can on the day before september 11th. when you talk about the economy. he can't be flippant, he can't sit here -- i mean, you know -- you notice, when he made a slight joke as it related to the republicans saying no, and he came back and he said, i don't mean to be funny. and so he has to sit here and frankly juggle all of those balls. and, again, it's a different situation when you're campaigning and now you're the one sitting in the hot seat. >> i would argue that the opening statement was a campaign statement. there is no --
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>> oh, absolutely. >> i was surprised by how openly partisan and political it was. and given that context, he was trying to do something today in terms of rallying the democratic base. and i saw little evidence that he did that. maybe i'm wrong. >> a quick time out. as you can see, a feistiy conversation and an important conversation. seven weeks from a big midterm election campaign. did the president help himself or hurt himself out there? and what do the democrats think of his performance? also still ahead, stay with cnn, an update on that horrific gas explosion in san bernadino, california. we'll have the latest when this special edition of cnn "newsroom" continues.
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welcome back to our special coverage of the pre's news conference just completed. we want to bring in dana bash on capitol hill. this was a news conference that the president, anyway, wanted to aim toward nervous democrats. heed wanted to try and help them as they're looking at the ever-plummeting poll numbers. do you think he helped anybody? >> i can answer by telling you what some of the democratic sources i've been e-mailing with throughout the press conference said. they said over all they think he was helpful. and what they were happy about early in the week when he gave two big speeches and that is laying down that contrast between democrats and republicans, specifically that big picture warning about, you know if you don't vote for us you're going to vote for the
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other guys who have old ideas and worn ideas, in the words of the president. but, and there is a but here. one democratic strategist said that there still wasn't enough specificity on the whole controversial issue of tax cuts. democrats are kind of split on this issue of whether or not those making the most money in this country, families taking $250,000 or more should have that tax cut extended or not. he said at the beginning, look, the wealthiest americans shouldn't have it. but then in response to the question he was asked about it, he kind of talked about a whole different tax proposal that's before congress. and another very interesting point, one other democratic source made to me, candy, and that is when tapper asked the president about the health care law, and why people rates are going up right now, he gave a very long answer, substantive answer, but very long answer about why things are the way they are, when this democratic strategist said, wait a minute, the answer should have been, patience, people. this takes time and some of the policies we put in place aren't
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going into effect for a year. so there is frustration on that particular issue, because that is something that republicans are in some cases successfully pounding democrats on, out on the campaign trail, that health care law. >> and i think, you know, john, she is right, they're perfectly right, in the end, the message the president has on the economy that he has to sell is, well, okay, you can stick with us or go back with the people that caused this mess and that's what he wanted to drive out there. >> and if you look at the data, and is donna has a point, sometimes we look too much at the data, when you're this close to an election, you look at the data. and independent voters, by and large, especially in key big states and congressional districts have moved away from this president, because they don't think washington looks like what he promised, the economy hasn't turned around fast enough. so the president's goal to me was apparent today, was to get his own base. if the independents are going the other way, democratic hopes of picking up that race there and that race there is to get their people out. and i said to bring in david and roland for a final thought.
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and david gergen to you first, because you have been there in the oval office before the president goes out to do this, and the president has an agenda, and started off with a statement about the economy. but then of course he has to cover the whole world, because you never know what you're going to be asked. >> well, that's true, john. and, look, i think he made his points. again, i don't think there was much electricity, but he got his points out. i think when you let a press conference go an hour and 15 minutes, an hour and 17 minutes, it gets blander. it used to be that you would give an opening statement and it would be 30 minutes. 30 minutes of questions and answers, and the president was able to get hes point out and keep that point central. when you open it up to make it, you know -- a sort of wall to wall for an hour and 15 minutes, you're inevitably going to be drawn in a lot of directions. and it's harder to rifle-shot your message. you've got much more of a shotgun. >> roland, does he help himself -- starting with the economic statement and near the
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end saying i didn't keep my promise to close guantanamo, reminding some people on the left of some things they're not happy about. >> you know what, if i don't have a job right now, if i lost my 401(k), and unemployment benefits have run out, i'm really not thinking about guantanamo bay. he has to follow this up, again, by continuing to go on the offensive by saying the republicans consistently have put up road blocks for the last 18 months on this road to recovery. that has to be the message. he has to give other democrats the confidence to actually say it, as well. that what they have done has made sense. and so he tree -- he did it early on. i agree with david. i thought news conference should have been cut ar off around the 55 minute mark as opposed to going over another 15 minutes. he has to do that. because if they don't do that, they're not giving any people on the left or any progressives any confidence that what they did was the right move. >> so we bring it back into the room. donna brazile. the president obviously getting more involved, making it more about him, trying to rally his
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voters. and yet if you look at his calendar, he's going to pennsylvania, ohio, wisconsin and nevada. only one state west of the mississippi. no states south of the mason-dixon line. i think i got that right. maybe if he gets in southern ohio, he can get close. what is his role now? >> his role is to rally the base, help raise money for the party and really to sharpen the contrast between the democrats who have tried to govern and in a common sense way to get the economy off the cliff, back down to the road of growth. and i think in the long run, john, if the president can rally the base, if we can close in the margin with the republicans and these generic scenarios, then i think turnout will be the key. we know the republicans are very motivated of the but at the end of the day, give me three weeks and cash in the bank, i can get three or four percent. [ laughter ] >> but here's the problem, and that is that, yes, the president does have a base to get out in. he can get them out. but what's bothering the independents, in addition to the
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economy, is they don't like the icky pounding on each other part. and so then -- you know, he can't be in both those worlds. >> you know, and it's not just that. the president started his press conference today pointing out 750,000 jobs have been created this year. his problem is that in may of last year, cnn was reporting the white house was saying we would create 750,000 jobs by august of last year. he wouldn't use the stimulus. he wouldn't use the word stimulus today. and is that's a lot of people are already e-mailing in saying that. independent voters really don't believe what they're hearing. they don't believe republicans or democrats. but they're just saying it's not working, they're throwing mud at each other, and they're kind of tiered of it. >> you know, i think it's kind of a mixed message here. and it's a muddle for the white house and for democrats, which is on the one hand, they have to acknowledge your pain, because unemployment is still high. so they have to say, okay, we understand things are bad. then he have to take a turn and say, but it's not as bad as it would have been if the other guys had had been in charge.
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and then i take another turn and say, and we're on the right track. so it's not as clear-cut a message as a democrat running -- i mean, correct me if i am wrong, donna, as a democrat running for re-election would like to have right now. >> but you know, the democrats can go out and say we came into office, we saw the mess, we started cleaning up, we brought our shovels, we brought our rakes, we got to work. republicans, they have been running, they have been complaining, waiting for the day they can come back into office so they can continue to bail out the rich, give them the tax cuts, and meanwhile, they have offered zero solutions. i think democrats have to sharpen a message and not -- start playing offense. we have been playing defense for too long. we have given you too much to do with that little -- >> the problem is that this was exactly bill clinton's message after labor day 1994 that we can't go back to george bush, ironically, that they messed it up and didn't work out for them.
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>> here's your question. does the president have the juice to still get out his base, which has been disheartened, yes or no? >> yes, but it shrunk. >> absolutely and you know what, you're going to be surprised. >> gloria, quick. >> i don't think so. >> different parts of the country. it's a different stake in ohio than it is in missouri, than it is in colorado. this is a complicated 50-piece puzzle. we've got seven weeks to go, and we're going to have a lot of fun covering what is a fascinating campaign. but at the moment, we turn things over to our friend tony harris in atlanta, and he'll continue the conversation throughout the day. hello, tony. >> terrific job, everyone. and our thanks to the best political team on television. let's do this. let's get you caught up on our top stories right now in the cnn "newsroom." and let's start with the aftermath of annin ferno. crews will go house to house searching for victims of a deadly gas line explosion near san francisco. officials say four people are dead. the blast set off a fire in the san bruno neighborhood. dozens of homes destroyed or
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damaged. residents had to run for their lives. >> you could feel the heat through the window and we started to see the window crack from the heat. so i decided to go in the room, put on some shoes, and we grabbed my dog, my wife, my son and we went out in the backyard and we went around the side of the house out of the gate, and our gate was already on fire. and when i stepped out into the backyard, i could see the stucco popping off of my neighbor's house behind us. so i knew it was intense. >> dan simon has been on the story all night and into the morning and he joins us now from san bruno. and dan, tell us where things stand right now. >> reporter: well, hi, tony, we're looking really at three central questions here. how many people died? what caused this explosion? and how many structures destroyed? so let's tackle them one by one. not really in that order, though. let's first talk about how this happened. well, there were some people who live in that neighborhood who say that for about three weeks or so, they detected the smell
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of natural gas. and at one point, one person claims that pg & e, the utility company, actually came out to investigate. well, short time ago, there was a news conference, and the president of pg & e addressed that question, and we want to roll that sound and take a look at that first. >> i have heard news accounts about customers reporting that pg & e -- to pg & e that they smelled gas in the area previously. right now we haven't got confirmation about that. but we have records that we are going back right this minute to try to confirm what exactly those phone calls looked like and when they occurred. and we will report back as soon as we know something. >> reporter: the pg & e president also saying that they detected no previous problems with that natural gas pipe. no pressure problems with it. and he said at this point, they actually have not been able to get close to the wreckage, if you will, to inspect it, to see what might have gone wrong, because right now he says it is
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not a safe area. let's talk about fatalities. right now we are told that four people are confirmed dead, but authorities still believe that they are likely to find more bodies as they canvas the homes this morning and bring in cadaver dogs. we're told that about 50 people were taken to local hospitals for various injuries, as well, tony. and in terms of the damage to the structures, we are told that 38 homes were destroyed. that's a bit of a reduction from what we were told earlier. earlier we were told it was more than 50. and a significant reduction in the amount of homes damaged. the this morning we were told there were more than 100 homes damaged. now the official count is at seven. why that enormous disparity? well, originally they were counting minor damage, things like problems with shingles, shingles that may have been burned. right now they are only talking about significant damage, and that number is at seven. so those are the three issues
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we're talking about. we have gotten a little bit more information, but in terms of that critical question in terms of what caused this explosion, still no closer in getting to the truth there, tony. >> okay. dan simon, that's a lot of information. well done, dan simon for us this afternoon. let's do this. let's talk about this with our chad myers. and chad, at the height of this, you could see in some of the video the winds were really kicking around those flames. >> yes. >> and you know, we -- it was bad. but it could have always been worse. and it looked like the firefighters did a pretty good job, as best they could at containing. >> they did the best job they could, and would have loved to have winds like this that they have right now, 8, 3, 5, 7, 9, 4. but unfortunately, let me take you to what they did have. here are the hours up and past where we have wind gusts there, 21 miles per hour, 21, 17. and you get winds like that, and you can get sparks to go from one house to another. we saw in detroit, what, five days ago, when the fires were
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going in detroit. and one house would catch fire, and then it literally, because of the winds were 40, they were going from house to house to house, shingle to shingle. and this is also -- when you get a heat ball like you had yesterday with this nat gas heat, you actually can start the house on fire, just because the heat can go through the window and literally start the curtains on fire, and the house burns from are the inside out. not so much even from the outside in. and that's one of the things they tell people to do in the fire areas when they say evacuate, they -- a forest fire, a wild land fire, get the curtains out of the way, so that if he is coming through the glass of your windows, the curtains don't catch on fire and your house doesn't burn from the inside out. amazing. >> thank you, sir. tomorrow marks the ninth verse of the september 11th treft attacks. take a look at these live pictures now from new york's ground zero why the memorial will be open and ready for viewing next year. we are bringing you an update on the efforts to build that memorial.
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this just in to cnn. we have gotten a statement from imam feisal abdul rauf, the man in charge of a proposed islamic community center and mosque near ground zero. and here is a statement. i am prepared to consider meeting with anyone who is seriously committed to pursuing peace. we have no such meeting planned at this time. our plans for the community
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center have not changed, with the solemn day of september 11th upon us, i encourage everyone to take time for prayer and reflection. as you know, pastor terry jones, the pastor who had announced plans to burn korans tomorrow is now planning to head to new york to meet with the imam. we have no idea if that meeting is still on. the statement we are getting from the imam is that it is not on. so we don't know if that will change the plans of pastor jones. we will keep you updated, of course, on developments in this story. wall street pauses to remember the victims of september 11th. trading halted on the new york stock exchange today for a moment of silence. tomorrow marks the ninth verse of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. a memorial to the victims of the september 11th attacks at the world trade center site is expected to be finished next year. here is a live picture of ground zero right now. joining me with a preview of the site is joseph daniels.
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he is the president and ceo of the national september 11th memorial and museum. good to see you, sir. thanks for your time. thanks for sticking around for us. >> thanks for having me. >> we've got to ask you, as the president and ceo of this national september 11th memorial and museum, you wake up every day with what goal in mind, driven by what philosophy or singular guiding thought? >> you know, on the tenth anniversary of the attacks next year, we know the entire world is going to be fixated on the world trade center site on ground zero, maybe in a way that it hasn't been for a number of years. and we feel a responsibility from the city of new york, from this entire nation, to be able to present a memorial that is open and that inspires. and that's our goal. >> well, speaking of goals, have you reached your fund-raising goals for the memorial and museum? will you have enough money to finish the memorial and museum? >> you know, when mayor mike
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bloomberg, who is the chairman of the memorial and museum got involved a couple years back, it gave such an incredible energy shot to the fund-raising. we have raised over $360 million, a quarter million donors from all 50 states, 39 countries. everybody recognizes that 9/11 was a global event and they want to be a part of opening this memorial on the tenth anniversary. >> well, begs the question. will you be ready? >> you know, i do wake up every single morning thinking about it. and what gives me the most confidence is that the folks that are working on this project, the thousands of workers on the world trade center site every day, they're not treating this like any other job. they are getting up and working with an emotional commitment and with passion that gives us all a lot of confidence that this will get done, that when the cameras are on ground zero next year, there will be a memorial to the 2,982 victims in a grove of trees with the two largest man-made water falls in this country and the very footprint of the twin towers and is i have
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a lot of confidence we're going to make that date. >> thank you for sticking around. we are flat out of time. but the best with your plans and efforts to move forward to have the memorial and museum ready to go this time next year. thanks for your time. >> thanks so much. let's take a break. ali velshi is next in the cnn "newsroom" i was a bookkeeper for 34 years. when i went on medicare, i did the numbers. that was the moment of truth. medicare by itself doesn't cover everything. we'd need more than that. i don't want to spend my life worrying about what would happen if one of us got sick. [ male announcer ] now more than ever, you may be wondering:
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